Townes turned 4 today. He is growing up. He prefaces a lot of sentences now with “actually” and he uses it correctly. He also finds things to be “awesome” much of the time. Or rather, “Awesome!” (shouted with absolute conviction.) He corrects Daisy constantly. “Actually Daisy, that’s not a baby penguin. That’s actually a momma penguin. The baby penguin is over here.” He thinks about things. He asks so many questions all day long about how everything works. Sometimes I say, “Let me check to make sure I’m giving you the best answer” as I navigate to google on my phone. If I’m not 100% sure when I give him an answer he is likely to give me a little side eye and say, “I’ll ask daddy when he gets home.” One day last week, he was asking me a question at the dinner table that I was struggling to answer for him and he slowly but deliberately slid my cell phone across the table to me without breaking eye contact or saying a word.
Townes still loves trucks and cars, but he’s also very into puzzles. He likes to “read” the books he’s actually memorized and identify numbers and letters and his own name. Townes recently informed us that he does not like swimming – not one bit. And the truth is that I’m forcing him to swim because, well, safety-- but the truth is I don’t much like swimming. Not one bit. Townes swam with daddy in class for almost three full years, smiling and splashing like a champ. The day we started him on his own in the class they call Pikes – weirdly named for a carnivorous and sometimes cannibalistic fish - how the heck are a bunch of 4-year-olds like a cannibalistic and carnivorous fish, I wonder? I want to make him swim because I almost drowned when I was a kid. We tell him he can’t swim with his cousins if he doesn’t learn to swim on his own. He doesn’t care. He cries during class and physically reaches out to me and Tim as we sit on the bench next to the pool with both arms. His expression is one I have never seen before. It says “abandoned.” We signed him up for t-ball over the weekend but he says he doesn’t want to do that either. I set my jaw and hope he’s just being cautious. We’ll see.
He asks us hard questions now. They learned about dinosaurs in January at school and I wasn’t ready yet for him to ask me questions about death. First, “Mom, the dinosaurs are dead right?” and then later, “Mom. Is my great-grandma dead? That means she’s not coming back, right?” I can see him turning it over in his head as I say, “Yes, buddy. Great-grandma Lillian died. When people die they are still with us because we keep them alive in our imaginations. We tell each other stories about them so they are always with us.” And then, “Mom, are you going to die?” “Yes, buddy. Everybody dies eventually. But not for a very long time.” I had this flashback of this same conversation with my mom so many years ago. Of course, when my mom was talking to me she said we’d see everyone in heaven again someday. And I don’t say that to Townes because I don’t believe we will. I hope his little science-loving heart will take in what I say and believe and then make his own decisions when he is old enough to do so. If he decides he believes in God, I will take him to church.
Over the weekend he started wiping away my kisses. I kiss him on his forehead. Swipe! Giggle! I kiss him on his ear. Dramatic wipe! Giggle. It is adorable. I want him to be more tough in swimming but I hate the thought of him getting tough in that way that boys are expected to get. He wears his cousin Isabelle’s hand-me-down Nikes – they are his FASTEST shoes and they are ruby pink. When we were coming out of the zoo a few weeks ago, a little kid exiting next to us with his day looked over at Townes and said, “Dad. Why is that BOY wearing PINK shoes?” and the dad grimaced wearily at me. Over Christmas, at Target, in the toy aisle he handled the car transporter and told me how much he wanted one. Then he picked up a ray gun of some kind and said, “mom? What is this toy called?” I’m thrilled that he doesn’t know what a gun is and I want to keep that knowledge from him as long as possible. We live in Los Angeles so this seems naïve at best. I want Townes to go to a school where he can meet kids that look like like himself and not like himself and have friends of all shades and it not be any kind of issue outside of our self-consciously diverse little corner of the world. But he’s not going to have as hard of a time in life as a boy with darker skin which is soul-crushing in 2015.
Townes is protective of Daisy. She is still his best friend, thank goodness. He gets overexcited sometimes in that way that makes some people remark “he’s all boy.” At the Superbowl Party we went to yesterday I had to physically remove him from bouncing between two pristine, white sofas like a pinball with a little girl. He likes to shout silliness (recent favorites include “chicken booty!” and anything with “poop.”) Sing a song. Replace key lyrics with word “poop.” You will make Townes and any other toddlers present laugh. I pander to this audience shamelessly. If you had told me four years ago how often I would make obscene fart noises for a reaction all in the service of making a kid laugh someday? I would have told you you’re crazy.
He falls asleep before his head hits the pillow sometimes (it’s almost true-really.) He wears himself out. He says, “Mom? Can you get off my bed now? I want to go to sleep” about 50% of the time. He crumbles into tears sometimes when he can’t do the thing (socks are tricky). He ran from me a few weeks ago, crying, clutching those tricky socks to a dark corner of the house. He didn’t want me to see him struggling.
My buddy. I’m sorry your birthday cake was so lame (it was lame, trust me.) We’ll do better next year. Thanks for planning to share all of your gifts with Daisy without prompting from me or dad. Thanks for continuing to be my little Pancake Monster. Thanks for helping. I'm sorry I don't have all the answers. Keep asking, though. I'll keep trying. Thanks for being yourself, always. I love you to the moon and back and around the sun 365 times.